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Pinot Noir Everywhere: From the Expected to the Fringes

Chehalem_pinot_noir_grapes.jpgYes, I'm on a Pinot Noir kick this week, thanks to my recent attendance at the World of Pinot Noir conference in Shell Beach, California. I haven't had time to write up my notes from the grand tasting of several hundred Pinots that I tasted, but I did want to share some notes from an interesting assortment of wines that I had the opportunity to experience.

What places come to mind most easily when you think of growing Pinot Noir? For me the list, in order, goes something like this: Burgundy, California, Oregon, and New Zealand. If I want to be a little geeky I would throw in Champagne and Alsace, and my more recent discoveries in South Africa, British Colombia, Australia and Chile. For even hard core wine aficionados, that's a pretty extensive list.

But Pinot ranges much farther afield than that, however, most notably in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Argentina, South Africa, Tasmania, and Romania. According to Wikipedia I should also add Spain, the UK, Modolva, Serbia, Croatia, the Republic of Georgia, Hungary, the Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Uruguay, Ukraine, Slovakia, and I'm sure it's only a matter of time before it's grown in China.

Wine is an adventure, and so with an adventurous spirit I am always excited by the opportunity to taste some Pinot Noirs from a bit further afield than my normal tasting takes me. Come along for the brief ride. Here's a selection of Pinot Noir from places expected, and much less well known.

2006 Albert Bichot Vosne Romanee 1er Cru Malconsorts, Domane de clos Frantin, Burgundy, France
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine has a nose of sweet cherry and raspberry. In the mouth the wine has hints of brown sugar, lightly grippy tannins, floral scents, and a core of tart sour cherry and raspberry. Very nice silky texture. 50% new oak, made from vines that average 48-years-old. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9 Cost: $125.

2008 Moehr-Niggli Pilgrim "Maeinfeld" Pinot Noir, Switzerland
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of buttered wheat toast and sweet cherries. In the mouth the wine offers a cool and polished quality with flavors of cherry, wet wood, and dried herbs. The wine is perceived mostly in the front of the mouth which means it ends up somewhat awkward. Moderate finish that is quite airy. 66% new oak, 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost $40.

2004 Weingut Johanneshof Reinisch Holzpur Vineyard Grande Reserve Pinot Noir, Tattendorf, Austria
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells wonderfully of mulled wine, red apple skin, and floral notes. In the mouth, the wine has a fantastic velvety texture and flavors of red apple skin, caramel, vanilla, and flowers. Silky, bright, clean, and delicate. Excellent and quite possibly the best Austrian Pinot I've ever had. 13% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $50.

2007 Weingut Dr. Heger Ihringer Winklerberg MIMUS Pinot Noir / Spatburgunder Rotwein, Germany
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry and raspberry leaf, with hints of fresh herbs. In the mouth the wine offers raspberry and herbal flavors with hints of wet wood and very fine grained, faint tannins that creep towards the tip of the tongue as the wine finishes with a tiny hint of savory bitterness. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $50. Click to buy.

2008 J. Hofstatter Barthenau Vigna S. Urbano, Alto Adige
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of delicate, floral cherry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth the wine is quite restrained, with subtle earthy flavors of cherry, raspberry, and green herbs. Faint leathery tannins sneak around the edges of the wine. Savory, even kelpy/saline flavors linger in the finish. Distinctive, delicate, with great acidity. Quite delicious.13% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $70.

2008 Quartz Reef Pinot Noir, Bendigo Estate Vineyard, Central Otago, New Zealand
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine has a dark cherry and dusty earthy aromas in the nose. In the mouth velvety tannins lightly clasp flavors of black cherry, black raspberry, and wet earth. A wonderful bright clarity and floral quality hangs over the wine, with bright acidity making the fruit very juicy and mouthwatering. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $35.

2008 Yabby Lake Pinot Noir, Mornington Penninsula, Australia
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of floral, blueberry, and cherry aromas. In the mouth bright and juicy, sweet cherry and raspberry flavors mix with sweet vanilla and oak. Faint tannins, velvet soft, and lightly woody in quality, circle around the edges of the mouth. Juicy slightly sour cherry fruit lingers long with floral qualities through a long finish with a hint of caramelization. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $35. Click to buy.

2007 Kingston Family Vineyards "Alazan" Pinot Noir, Casablanca Valley, Chile
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of ripe black cherry, and dark blackberry fruit. In the mouth, dark black cherry and blackberry fruit has light velvet tannins wrapped round it. An earthy quality with a hint of greenness lingers through the finish. Good acidity and a very dark character, though perhaps too dark for my taste. 14.3% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $28. Click to buy.

2006 Yarra Yering "Dry Red Wine" Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of exotic woods and raspberry and citrus rind. In the mouth, citrus oil, bright juicy raspberry, passionfruit, and lingering notes of incense sizzle on the palate with incredible juiciness that puckers the mouth the bright citrus of fresh passionfruit. Incredibly long finish. Outstanding. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $

2009 Frunza Pinot Noir, Viile Timisului, Romania
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of woodsmoke and briary raspberry fruit. In the mouth the wine offers flavors of raspberry fruit and leaves, mixed with a cedar and forest floor aspect. A hint of caramelized sugar lingers in the finish. Imported by Cameron Hughes Wines.13% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $12.

2006 Gantenbein Pinot Noir, Switzerland
Light garnet in the glass, this wine has a nose of bright raspberry fruit aromas with hints of sweet oak. In the mouth the wine tastes of raspberries, cherries, and nicely integrated sweet oak. The wine is bright and floral, with great acidity and wonderful texture. Excellent. Score: around 9. Cost: $??

2009 Peay Vineyards "Pomarium" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry, lavender, and hints of blueberry fruit. In the mouth gorgeously juicy flavors of cherry and raspberry are cloaked in a fine mesh of powdery, earthy tannins that linger along with floral and wet dirt qualities in the finish. Excellent acidity, fantastic texture, and nice balance. Delicious. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $53. Click to buy.

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